A Place for Us

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

I don't know how attending the prestigious Iowa's Writers Workshop always guarantees it's graduates to succeed in writing masterpieces. The most unforgettable literary fiction that can evoke myriads of emotion are writers who have attended there. This impressive debut novel is no exception. This book about a first generation American, Muslim, Indian family explores the love and complexities of every family dynamic that exists in all of humanity.

The special bonds that exist between mother's and son's is brought to life with vivid detail. The strong bonds that exist between siblings and how birth order effects greater expectations on each individual. Fathers and sons who find themselves in power struggles are expertly displayed. Each character in this novel is inherently good and pure at heart.

The powerful and lasting affects of first love are flawlessly depicted. This is also a story of how well intentioned decisions made for what seems the best for our children can sometimes backfire and cause damage that cannot be undone. This novel also explores how different children are and react while brought up in the same household with identical values each take a different path and each one will conform or not conform.

The heartbreaking estrangement of a child has lifelong consequences. This is a very impressive debut novel that will stay with me a long time. The writing is beautiful and the character development is superb. I wish more novels were written with such a keen eye to detail. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It shows us how much we share in common as humans no matter what cultural or religious faith we belong too.

Thank you to Net Galley, Fatima Farheen Mirza and Hogarth, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group for providing me with my digital copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an E-arc of A Place for Us for review.

I was interested in reading this book as it is the first under SJP's new imprint - which is an odd reason for me to pick up a book, since I'm indifferent to her acting work and fashion taste-making - and also that it had been highly rated by someone I follow on goodreads. I also enjoy books about family dramas/secrets, but that was secondary to my requesting this book.

This novel explores the workaday lives of a first generation Indian-American Muslim family of five. It begins at the wedding of the eldest daughter, featuring the return of the youngest child, and only son. From there, the book is structured into 4 parts containing individual chapters - a weird thing to mention, but the narrative of the book (within each chapter) jerks wildly between years and family perspective, for no reason that I could fathom. We see small moments spanning maybe 25 years of the family. However, the jumbled up nature of the story means that moments that should land, pack a limited emotional punch because you're ripped out of that plot and cast down 5 years in the future out of nowhere. I would liken it to reading a short story collection that has gone through a blender.

Of the five members of the family, I was interested in 4 of them. Sadly, Amar, my least favourite, is the one we spend the most time with/worrying about. We completely skip over the middle child - no real clue what Huda gets up to all book. Hadia, the eldest, endures the weight of her parents expectations, in education, religion, and overall comportment. The parents, Layla and Rafiq are smaller parts in the narrative, until the fourth part, that is non-stop Rafiq.

The writing is competent, but the flow of the story is absent and the scope of the story so small, that I wouldn't recommend this book. The reading experience I would most compare this to is The Casual Vacancy - long, meandering, completely unnecessary to my library.
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A story of a family trying to find their place in a new country and within themselves; finding who you really are amidst the traditions, rules and the religious confines of your family.
Sibling love and rivalry pervade much of Hadia’s tale, as she tries to find happiness and comfort for herself and her siblings.
Excellently written with familiar family issues, while being informative of a culture through its plot and intricate characters.
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NetGalley sent me this book as an advanced copy. In A Place For Us the perspective switches between the 5 members of a Muslim American family as they grow up in the 90's until now. Amar, the youngest, and most rebellious is the focus. This book had some great moments and was trying to say some beautiful things but was about 200 pages too long. The perspective switching was not done very well and I found myself wishing it was a linear story. The pacing in this book was also quite bad and there were times when I struggled to continue reading. think with a better editor this could have been one of my favorite books of the year. Either way, I look forward to seeing what the author does next-she has a tremendous gift and just needs to cut out the unnecessary.
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I loved this story. Hadia broke my heart. Layla broke my heart. Amar broke my heart. I wish I could have learned more about Huda, but hey ... middle child, am I right? ;)
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Highly recommend this poignant novel which centers around an American-Muslim family who has gathered for the oldest daughter Hadia's wedding and the estranged son Amar has returned after running away years ago. The story reflects back in time to the events leading up Amar's disappearance and his feeling of not belonging. You come to know these characters deeply through the author's prose and depiction of even the smallest moments which reverberate as the years unfold. This novel exemplifies one of the reasons I enjoy reading in that you learn about a different culture through the story and characters. But more importantly, in this story we see the universal truths of family and relationships.
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Review published on Booklover Book Reviews website: http://bookloverbookreviews.com/2018/06/a-place-for-us-by-fatima-farheen-mirza-book-review.html
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One of the best books I have ever read. I found myself highlighting full pages. The writing was utterly beautiful. My favorite thing about the book was the structure of the scenes. The sections jumped around to different times/ages of the characters almost randomly. At first, I wasn't sure why it felt so haphazard...but as the story went on it made perfect sense in how we the reader got to see certain events or conversations from childhood come to play later in their life...this is hard to explain but basically...the structure was unique. I cared deeply for the characters and found myself laughing and crying with them.
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5 stars to A Place for Us, an emotionally-evocative and profound story of family and belonging! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I read A Place for Us with the Traveling Sisters, a wonderful group of avid readers here on Goodreads. I was the lone straggler, coming in with my thoughts late on this book, and while I wish I had been able to discuss more throughout reading, I felt such an intense connection to this book, I needed time to process. It was a total pleasure to read this with my sisters and an absolute honor to be chosen by Crown/SJP for Hogarth to receive physical copies for review! 

A Place for Us is the story of an Indian-American Muslim family living in California. At the opening, the family has come together to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding. Amar, the estranged youngest brother, attends the wedding, after being away for years. 

What unfolds is a gentle layering of time, past and present over decades, told in the voices of the family; all culminating in an honest portrait of this complex and loving family, with each member searching for belonging, or “place.” 

A Place for Us was a book to read slowly and savor. One in which to reflect on my own life, on my family growing up, on my parents, and most especially, how small decisions made by family members can leave indelible marks. I felt profound connections to the genuine characters portrayed in this book due to the authenticity in the writing. Culture-aside, the issues at play within this family were universal; however, the culture embedded here was enlightening and thought-stirring. 

Fatima Farheen Mirza has the ability to convey emotions in the most sincere and open ways, and she captures the vulnerabilities in people with honesty and grace. As with all books, each person will take away messages that are personal based on her/his own path towards identity and belonging, especially within one’s own family. A Place for Us is easily one of the best books I have ever read and gets my highest recommendation. 

Thank you to the Traveling Sisters for this unforgettable group read, to Fatima Farheen Mirza for writing this treasure, Sarah Jessica Parker for selecting this book, Crown/SJP for Hogarth and Goodreads for sending us the physical copies for our group read, and to Netgalley.
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This powerful debut novel examines the complicated dynamics within an Indian-American Muslim family living in California, from each perspective, over decades of their lives. Non-linear storytelling slowly builds an intricate web of relationships and emotional history. Just like real families, their story is messy and difficult and tugs at the heartstrings. This book isn't for readers who prefer plot-driven, fast paced stories. Instead, it's for readers that are patient, and want to see characters develop and grow overtime, and see how complicated family relationships affect our lives.
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Every once in a while I read a debut novel that is so perfect because it’s everything I want - beautifully written with characters that have you caring about them from the beginning and a story that will not easily be forgotten. This is one of them. You might read reviews of this book both on Goodreads and in the press and see words like stunning, beautiful, powerful and I wish I could be more original and find some different words but I can only say that this book is all of those things. This is a story of an Indian Muslim family living in California, and of course, it is in so many ways about cultural traditions, religious beliefs, but at its core it is a story of a family, how much they love each other, how they make mistakes and hurt each other, how deeply they feel sorrow and regret for things they do and say, sometimes too late. They are not unlike many of us, whether we are Indian Muslim or not. 

We know at the beginning that Amar, the youngest child in the family, has been gone for several years and that there is  tension between him and his father, Rafiq. As he returns for his sister Hadia’s wedding, his mother Layla and sister Huda as well as Hadia are anxious about how Amar’s  return will be. We move back and forth seamlessly through multiple points of view - their thoughts of the present, memories of the past, the good ones like going to see fireworks and then those not so happy, at various times in their lives as little children and teenagers, the emotions, the fear of what it was like for them after 9/11, taking us back and forth finally moving towards where they are today. This is the intimate way we get to know these characters so deeply. The narrative that perhaps struck me the most, the deepest was that of Rafiq, the father who we come to know in the last part of the book. I found some circumstances so heartbreaking and some so uplifting and I cried at both. It’s hard to say anything more than hasn’t been said in the numerous reviews, so I’ll leave it a thanks to my good friend Diane S. whose review made me know I had to read this book. 

 I received an advanced copy of this book from SJP for Hogarth/Crown through NetGalley.
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I've read only about one quarter of this book so far, but that was enough for me to go out and buy a hardcover copy.  This is a wonderful book about family, finding your identity, honoring family traditions and choosing to make independent decisions. It would be a good pick for discussion
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This is a beautiful book, both visually and in it's content. It’s a slow burn, a quiet novel with such beautifully expressed thoughts that it would be impossible to read without being deeply affected. I’m in awe that this is a debut novel of a 26-year-old author. Believe all the hype and glowing reviews – this book is deserving of all of it.

The book opens in California with the wedding of Hadia, the eldest of 3 siblings in an Indian-American Muslim family. The estranged brother, Amar, surprisingly attends and stirs up deep-seated complicated family relationships. It is clear something has happened in this family to create a rift, and the reasons are slowly revealed as the story seamlessly toggles back and forth in time, in a non-chronological order. The reader wanders through the memories of this family as we experience them through various points of view. Each memory, each perspective, gives us more insight. 

The last 100 or so pages are devoted to a first-person account from Rafiq, the father, and they are riveting. Reading this section tore my heart out and stomped on it, not in a manipulative way, but in a contemplative way. It’s been a long time since a book affected me this deeply.

Although an Indian Muslim family is at its center, there’s such a universality to Mizra’s writing that each reader will find it relatable in some way. Some of the themes include family dynamics, unmet expectations, betrayal, forgiveness, and acceptance. Also explored are the seemingly small, inconsequential decisions that are made every day but which have the power to create a devastasting ripple effect through the decades. It’s about bridging the gap between tradition and the modern world, and the children’s struggle to find a place in the family, in their home, and in the world. The author explores all of these themes with a tenderness and compassion that is extraordinary.

This debut of 26-year-old Mirza is the first book from Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint at Hogarth. I can’t wait to see what the author and the imprint publishes next.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book for review.
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Norma and I read A Place For Us with 15 of our Traveling Sisters. Right from the very first mention of reading this book we were excited and had no idea the incredible reading experience that awaited for us. With a few sisters who mostly stick to thrillers and were a little hesitant at first as this was not their normal read we all dived in together and were immediately drawn into this family and story. 

I will not be able to beautifully put my thoughts together or write a review as beautiful as my Traveling Sisters have with their reviews but I am going to try by sharing from my heart how much this story touched us and how it made us feel. 

Sometimes a book hits in ways you don’t expect and everything becomes clear as to why you read and you seek book after book chasing that incredible feeling of finding that book that really spoke to you leaving you feeling so privileged to have read it. A Place For Us was that book for us. 

Fatima Farheen Mirza took us on an emotional journey like we have never experienced before and we really wished we could have been lost in a coulee for real reading this together and hiding from the demands of life to solely focus on this read and reading experience. We took our time and savored every word and moment of this beautiful and gracefully written story as well with our very meaningful discussion. Through this journey, we experienced so many emotions as we read and discussed this story together. 

Fatima Farheen Mirza does an amazing job of inviting us into the lives of this Muslim family and showing us their love, their struggle to find balance, their convictions, mistakes, their inner struggles and most of all, what they held dear to them as a family. We instantly connected with them and they became our family. They became us and we could see ourselves, our neighbors and our community in them. We could truly see the magic of Mirza’s talent and her ability to bring the private parts of this family to life not just by their struggles of each finding their place within their culture and religion but also with finding their place in this world. This allowed us to see the story on a more universal level that can be related to any family. 

So much emotional depth to this one and we dug deep into the layers and really took our time discussing this story. Our hearts were twisted, broken and we were in agony at times with our emotions. After finishing reading this story, some of us were left weeping and others speechless as we felt our hearts were ripped out from our chests. In the end, we all came together and shared our feelings towards this tender story that touched us in so many similar ways yet so differently at times.

For a short time, we found our place together reading this unforgettable story and it will always be a very special Sister Read for us all.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Goodreads, Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint SJP for Hogarth, Fatima Farheen Mirza, and Penguin Random House for bringing us all together for this Incredible Traveling Sister Read by providing us with the opportunity to read and review an advanced physical copy of this book.

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I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This was a verydifficult book to get through. I had to invest a lot of time with each of these characters and their family history, and feel all of their pain, before the story started to pay off. But I’m glad I stuck it out. Gut wrenching
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My reviews can be found at: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

"There were many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts being broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream-whatever that dream might be. (Pearl Buck)"

A family, a faith, a country, customs, and traditions all combine to make this book an outstanding piece of literature. This is a story that will break your heart so many times in so many ways. "I don't know why they call it heartbreak. It feels like every other part of my body is broken too."

A story begins, a wedding, and a new life start, and a tragic child grown to manhood suffers and a family that has been crippled comes to together and then breaks apart once again.

This is a tale of a family, a family that has been somewhat pitted against what their values and morals dictate according to their Muslim faith. It is an Indian Muslim family living in California and trying to reconcile their faith to the land where their place in this country conflicts often with what they hold most dear. There are three children in this family, Hadia, the oldest daughter, whose choices in life are limited to the possibility of an arranged marriage or to chose the profession of becoming a doctor, Huda, the younger sister who seems to follow always Hadia's lead, and Amar, the son, the youngest family member, whose life seems to be fraught with obstacles.

The parents Layla and Rafiq love their children, but it is their son whose life worries them so. Amar struggles. He struggles with school, with loving a girl who is declared to be not for him, and he struggles with the strictures of his father, his faith, and his life. He is the one who breaks his parents' hearts. He is the one who is most in need of love, of understanding, of assurances that all will be well and he is loved.

However, where he most seeks these assurances, those from a father he idolizes, a mother he implicitly trusts, he does not receive what he needs. His father holds a strict line, while his mother betrays him and he feels that he is useless and worthless. His father feels he is making his son, all his children, into strong adults who honor their faith and its customs. He does not speak the important words his son needs to hear. He lets distance and the outside world steal his son away and when he reflects on his life after a serious illness, all the thoughts he has are the ones he should have voiced ages ago.

This was such a sad tale. It made me think of the ways in which adherence to religious principles can often be an enormous almost insurmountable challenge for children. It made me think of words unspoken, of times when forgiveness is most needed, of experiences not shared. There are always the children who will adhere to the religious and community practices, but there are some who revolt and fall by the wayside floundering with their inability to accept and carry the burden what is being fostered upon them.

Thank you for Fatima Mirza, SJP for Hogarth, and NetGalley for providing this reader with an advanced copy of this most tender and poignant novel.
Thank you also to the Traveling Sisters group who read this book with me and added so much thought, introspection, and insights into this story. "Reading a good book is like taking a journey." We took a wonderful journey with this one dear sisters!
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A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is a complex, intense and layered family drama full of emotional conflicts, everyday struggles and simple joys. An endearing and heartfelt saga that spans decades, it is bound to leave a mark on its readers. 

The story revolves around an Indian-American Muslim family trying to embrace their life in America along with preserving their culture, faith and traditions. 

You see, as an Indian Muslim living in the US for almost a decade now, and having faced some very similar struggles, my expectations of this book were set high when I read the blurb. I was curious as to how Fatima Farheen Mirza would portray those tiny battles, little conflicts and emotional dilemmas we go through on a daily basis. Would she be able to paint a picture that is close to reality? Will it be possible for her to spin a story and create characters that every reader would be able to relate to at some point? And most importantly will the story manage to stay with its readers? I needn't have worried about any of these because Mirza surely knows what she is doing, her storytelling is flawless.

With carefully constructed characters and a simple yet stunning prose, that at times feels almost poetic the author has woven a slow burning tale of love and heartbreak, faith and identity and of trying to fit in without having to let go of one's customs in a world where cultures collide.

It all begins with the wedding of Rafiq and Layla's eldest daughter Hadia. The younger sister Huda is helping the bride get ready, the parents are busy checking and rechecking the arrangements, but underneath all the celebratory hum is a quiet anguish and hidden joy. The wayward youngest son Amar has returned home for his sister's wedding. The son that ran away from home several years earlier is back and yet no one in the family has asked him anything. They are all just savoring his presence. What happened? 

The story gradually unfurls, by us getting glimpses into the memories of Hadia, Layla and Amar, as they reflect on the time that passed, major decisions, life's milestones, tiny stolen moments that finally led to this present day. These non-linear memories , these multitude of emotions, decisions, failures, regrets and the many intricacies of life is what makes up this story. 

Worth mentioning is the last few chapters which contains Rafiq's point of view and is possibly the most heart-wrenching portion of the book. To get to peek inside the heart of an extremely strict and seemingly unbendable father was certainly not what one would expect. These last few pages are profound and intimate that would certainly break your heart. And so will the ending.

A complex, diverse and character-oriented family saga, A Place for Us is a poignant story that will not disappoint. In every way a gem of a debut and highly recommended.
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Family sagas are definitely my jam, and this novel was no exception. I enjoyed the structure of the book, working backwards from the arrival of estranged son Amar at the daughter Hadia's wedding. Immediately we know that something is amiss and are not given the answers as Mirza quickly brings us back in time to the beginnings of their family, their parents marriage, and examines the childhood of the three siblings. I felt invested in the characters right away, as they struggled with universal experiences of childhood - most notably: first love. Learning about different cultures also makes a novel compelling for me, especially in the ways it affects the family dynamic. There is a lot to unpack about gender roles, religion, habit and individuality. 

"Maybe it was the exceptions that we made for one another that brought God more pride than we we stood firm, maybe His heart opened when His creations opened their hearts to one another..."

The second part of the book brings us back to the wedding when all of the family secrets come out and it plays out in excruciatingly dramatic fashion. I turned the pages furiously, hoping the characters I had become invested in had some closure or perchance a happy ending or two. 

"And remember that any time you point your finger to accuse someone, there are three fingers beneath it, curled to point right back at you."

In the last section, we are given the Rafiq's, the father's, story as he reflects on the entire history of his family from his devastating point of view.  Mirza's writing is simple and beautiful, evocative of first loves, unrequited love, familial and, in the end, excruciating parental love. If you enjoyed Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, I would HIGHLY recommend this book. There are so many similarities, and the common thread of a minority family struggling with the love they have for each other, their culture, and trying to do right by one another. Sometimes their actions end in happiness, and other times it ends in tragedy, as in life.
Many thanks to Hogharth books and NetGalley for the free advance digital copy for my review!
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Mary Beth *Traveling Sister*'s review Jun 12, 2018  ·  edit
it was amazing

So Beautiful, Emotional and Moving!

I was immediately drawn into the story due to the beautiful writing. I love how Sarah Jessica Parker described the writing on the very first page of the book, "Told with a delicacy as though every sentence is spun from glass. I just had to savor each sentence and it flowed so well. 

This book is so different than I usually read. I have to have a lot of suspense while reading a book. At least that's what I thought until I read this one. It did have some suspense, that kept me turning the pages, to find out what happened to Amar.
I loved this beautiful emotional book that really moved me. It made me feel. I love a book that makes me feel. That's why I love Goodreads because I would of never of picked this book up. It was all the glowing reviews, that had me picking this one up. I would of really of missed out if I didn't read it. 

I loved the characters! I felt this was a character driven novel. 
Hadia is strong willed and is very helpful with her brothers and sisters and is very hard working. I really loved her.

Amar is the main character and he has lots of troubles. He is quiet, sensitive and kind. He doesn't seem to fit in with his family very well, and his sister's leave him out of games. He seemed to struggle with their customs and religion beliefs. He doesn't take criticism very well. He doesn't try at all if he doesn't want to. But if he thinks he can do something well or if he wants to he does. I felt so sorry for Amar, my heart went out to him. His family was so strict. 

Layla is the mother, and she tries to keep the peace in the family. She seemed to favor Amar more than the other children. 

Rafiq, was their Baba, (father) who was very strict with his family, making sure they followed their religious beliefs and culture. He would not let his children to to parties, or friends houses. He did have a big heart. 

I really didn't get to know Huda very well but the book mainly focuses on Amar, and he is closer to Hadia. These characters will break your heart. 

This is a tender hearted sort of a Muslim Indian American family caught between cultures and a deeply moving story of identity and belonging. It deals with the pleasures and pains of family life including love, faith, betrayal and forgiveness.

I think this book will move you as well as it moved me. 

This was a Traveling Sister read and I think it moved all of us. It was a fantastic reading experience.

I want to thank Penguin Random House, and Fatima Farheen Mirtza and Netgalley for the physical copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
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"Maybe it was the exceptions we made for one another that brought God more pride than when we stood firm, maybe His heart opened when His creations opened their hearts to one another"

This book both filled my heart and broke it into a hundred pieces.

Why is it always the hardest to talk about the books that we love the most? Because that's what this one has become, a new favorite. While I wade through this heap of emotions this story left me with, I'll attempt a very brief synopsis. Spanning decades, A Place for Us follows one Indian-American Muslim family living in California, the parents having moved there from Hyderabad after their wedding of their arranged marriage. Using multiple perspectives and flashbacks you get the story of their complex and conservative Muslim family. Opening on the wedding day of eldest daughter Hadia you realize that the family has been divided and seeing each other again for the first time due to the wedding. I will leave it at just those couple sentences because the storytelling itself is what makes this book so uniquely beautiful. 

I felt early on that this one was going to be a hit for me, it using many of my favorite devices for storytelling and exploring many of my favorite themes. That said, this went above and beyond my expectations. The narrative floats forward and backward through time perfectly mirroring the reminiscing minds of the characters. What starts as a single thread slowly unwinds to reveal the whole tapestry, each additional thread giving you the missing perspective of a different family member and giving a whole new light to their life. This method of writing illustrated beautifully how small decisions can shape the future and how prone we can be as families to misunderstand and wound those closest to us. A tragic look at pride, belonging and growth. I started to miss the characters as soon as I put it down. So thankful for the chance to pick this one up and fall in love with this family, I surely won't be forgetting them. I have already recommended this book to many people!
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